Network Effects and Gay Marriage

Arthur B. commented in a recent thread regarding gay marriage:

The end of words is to carry information, the more generic the meaning of a word, the less information it conveys, the less value it has. The same is true for an institution.

Actually, I don't think this necessarily follows. One of the strongest conservative arguments for gay marriage, made by people like Jonathan Rauch and (I think) Andrew Sullivan, is that marriage has network effects. Like the adoption of fax machines or the Internet, which become increasingly valuable as more people are introduced to the system, so too extending the institution of marriage to gay couples strengthens the value of the system overall to everyone, by reinforcing the social norm of long-term contractual monogamy.

Not that long-term contractual monogamy is necessarily a good thing. Long-term contractual relationships may be a good thing when children are involved, which seems to be the only anti-gay marriage touchstone remaining, at least among the crowd that doesn't feel comfortable appealing to naked bigotry. (Of course, they never actually explain the mechanism behind which extending the institution of marriage to gay couples threatens the raising of children.)

When opponents of gay marriage argue that gay marriage is a slippery slope to polygamy, it seems to me that the slope is arguably moving in the other direction, by promoting monogamy among a less-monogamous-than-average population, rather than the other way around.

And yes, I realize that using the term "slippery slope" to describe gay marriage is incredibly gay itself, if you catch my meaning.

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Monogamous marriage is not a

Monogamous marriage is not a network, or it is a very trivial one. I don't see any network effect at play.

By the way, you are forgetting one of the strongest opponent to gay marriage in your list : health insurance companies.

Health insurance companies object?

[Y]ou are forgetting one of the strongest opponents to gay marriage in your list : health insurance companies.

I wasn't aware of any specific objection by health insurance companies. Can anyone provide evidence of this objection? Thanks.

Monogamous marriage is not a

Monogamous marriage is not a network, or it is a very trivial one.

It is an institutional argument, and part of the value of an institution, when that institution is a cultural norm, is how widely adopted and respected that institution is in society. Just as part of the value of hoity-toity fashion is how narrowly adopted that fashion is in society. Once a hoity-toity fashion becomes widely adopted, it loses its status of exclusivity.

By the way, you are forgetting one of the strongest opponent to gay marriage in your list : health insurance companies.

I'm not sure why, unless it has something to do with the bundling effect of tying health insurance in with employment. Otherwise, it seems like if offering insurance to married partners is profitable for heterosexuals, it should be so for homosexuals; and if it is not profitable for homosexuals, it should not be so for heterosexuals either.

It's because of the tying

It's because of the tying with employment, benefits go to the spouse as well. Many contracts are beneficial to someone if they get married. The only proper way to introduce government recognized gay marriage would be to say that preexisting contracts mentioning marriage only apply to heterosexual marriage, but I'll never fly.

I guess we can add this to

I guess we can add this to the long list of reasons why tying health care insurance to employment is a terrible idea.